Politics of Testing in Education

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Education has become more embattled in the past twenty years than I believe it was for the entire century prior. As the tide began to turn and politicians realized that by taking politics to education it can relate to votes, they have attacked education to such an extent that what we now see in a classroom is not teaching, barely learning and definitely not what we want for the future.

Education is an area in which parents’ desire for their child to be better than they were prior to them. The system of education is meant to guide a student to become better than that parent and in so doing create a better life for that child than the parent had. This system makes sense when it is allowed to work properly, yet what has occurred through political engineering and social pressure has become an environment of coddling.

Since the creation of the “No Child Left Behind” program in 2001 the ideology for education has been far more political than it was for the previous 4 decades. The political spectrum created an environment which blamed the teachers and the schools for every problem, and so they worked hard to create a testing environment which was going to prove that every child can become the same. The results of this model has not proven accurate, as the product being created is not truly measurable. The tests do not show what a young person can truly do and or how they think, operate or desire, it is just simply data points to say that a child has achieved a level of success. The motivation and enjoyment of experience is removed for the effort of a test.  The youth of today may seem like they are prepared to do better than their parents, yet the system is not showing itself to be pure, rather all we know is what a test is measuring, which does not allocate a holistic experience, just a targeted ability to bubble in tests. The results have not garnered smarter people or even better people, and after almost 2 decades of testing what we are showing is that critical thinking and ability has diminished extensively.

As the political climate has grown extensively by adding more testing and additional data points, districts afraid of losing funding have complied and have allocated resources to testing. This mindset has become a society of data points who are very good at bubbling in an answer as designed by a test, yet have a lack of common sense, critical thinking and ability to question what is going on. This is not a good characteristic for our future, and even worse, may guide us to a more automated future – which is great for technology, yet what do we do with people who have few or no skillsets beyond test bubbling?

In this same conversation is the reality of what this means for our future. Employers are not looking for data points or test bubblers, they need thinkers, workers and well-rounded people, so that they can advance their business. The current schooling environment is not creating a truly well rounded person and that is a problem for the future. For almost a decade the blame for this has been the teacher’s fault, additional blame has been on the school environment itself and finally if/when the conversation can, the blame is guided to the environment of public schools. The reality is that this has nothing to do with the teachers or the school environment, it has more to do with society as a whole and the world of politics. The politics of finding votes and making voters align with political ideology has been successful as a public relations opportunity, yet what has occurred within the walls of education is to unravel what was successful in the hopes of everyone being the same in the end. There is a reality in which some students are more successful than others, which continues to be shown through testing; yet what is not able to be seen is that without teaching skills necessary beyond testing we are now slowing down the process of adolescents to the point that 30 year olds are just becoming mature enough for the market place. This is a sad reality that we have created, and one in which we need to consider as we scale back to teaching beyond tests.

When considering how to be a successful school or a funded school, the reliability is on the test results, so the system is working to find ways to be test reliant. An example of such is when school administrators guide their faculty to give a grade of 50% to students for assignments not completed so that these students don’t fall too far behind. The conversation surrounding this is that once a student falls behind they never catch up, which may be part of the truth, yet it also leaves that student ahead of the game for no good reason, and also allows them to learn a system of coddling. This systems creates a false sense of reality for students who then learn how to take advantage of it. Another example is when schools tell teachers to stop teaching novels and or writing research papers, and instead prepare to pass bubbling tests, which may show up as a quality student, yet their future is limited due to a lack of effort in the formative phases of learning. This system is so pervasive that as a culture, America is going to continue to find its educational system falling behind their counterparts around the world. We continue to blame teachers, when in reality we should be blaming the people who are focused on testing and the results of the testing. The politicians are holding onto a belief that the tests show them how students are improving, because of the testing, yet the reality is there is only one way to improve knowledge, that is to study, focus and practice consistently over time. This means that the rigor of courses need to be met by the students, and not just bubbled in from a test, which is then graded by a bell curve model.

America needs to get back to being honest. If, as a nation we truly want to be honest with our families and students then we need to do it from the ground up. Education needs to be a place in which we, as a society guide and utilize tools for success, and use those tools within the classroom and technology to develop our future. In society, there is a need for everyone to have a role, and some of those people will be lawyers while others will be welders. There is a place for everyone, even though at this time we do not guide this process in the schools, rather we just blame teachers for not finding a way for every child to become a college graduate who will be an engineer or a lawyer. The push from politicians and leaders to force students toward success through bubbling tests does not allocate a truth of success. To do this, we need to lead by focusing on what is truly going on. When a student is not doing their work, then their grades equal that result. When a teacher is not creating enough rigor to push the students then we work with that teacher to become better or they leave the profession. The society of today needs to consider that the past was not as bad as we thought it was and that technology is not as amazing as it seems to be. The reality of education is effort, effortful processing and rigor. This means that we find ways for students to learn through creating an environment of hard work, effortful learning and if we have to test, we do so at a national level to compare students, while we allow teachers to truly help in evaluation of students. Not every student is perfect, not every student is college bound and not every student will be a lawyer, yet every student can reach their potential if there is an environment for it. Stop the over testing and bring back the learning.

 

 

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It is not Vouchers – its Accountability

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In the Orlando newspaper there is discussion over the mechanism to bolster private schools through various state devised scholarships and or vouchers.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-florida-school-voucher-investigation-1018-htmlstory.html

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-florida-school-vouchers-journalism-scott-maxwell-20171019-story.html

For many years I have fought openly against these types of schemes for their whole system is designed to grow private education at the detriment of public education systems. My issue is always accountability.

Why would politicians need to create a system of vouchers is a question that many should be asking. If the answer was as simple as we are told – the private schools offer an accountable system which is not occurring within the public schools. Unfortunately this is an outright lie.

Politicians continue to double down on vouchers, charter schools and other mechanisms without accountability while forcing more accountability on private schools.

The argument for vouchers and charters continues to be choice – and people who are pushed to believe that public schools offer no choice send their child to one of these politically designed schools. Whenever a charter is created it’s the rules of that environment and for the most part all voucher and charter schools are Charter based in their development – which means they are not held to any rules of accountability at the state level.

Hiring practices are ignored, certifications are ignored and quite frankly, caring for the kids is generally ignored as well.

So when this system comes under attack, the idea of being wrong brings upon further attack. Recently I was reading where State politicians stated that psychology has openly guided people to know that learning styles mean offering children carious avenues to learn. The problem with this statement is that psychology does not concur with learning styles, rather the psychological research says the exact opposite of what the politicians are hoping people to believe. Then there is the whole argument that every child deserves a unique education, yet this is what public school offers through rules created at a Federal level, whereas in private education this is not mandated.

The general public is not aware of the politics that is occurring behind the scenes for each of these gifts that are given out through political channels. Education in America is very much a political animal as the money allocated through it is excessive, yet, at each turn politicians should not be the ones making the educational decisions. When considering the value of a voucher, when sending a child to a different school, the child should be seen as improving, yet this rarely happens, rather the voucher sends the child to a for profit education center, where the motivation is profit, not teaching or learning.

The press has continued to write articles against the abuse of this educational system, yet for whatever reason the politicians continue to push it and the people continue to believe in it. So in reviewing documents, articles, research and more, I am at a loss for understanding.

Whether the argument is charter schools, vouchers, stem programs, technology focused etc, the result is always the same, for profit programs focus on dollar signs instead of effortful processing, which is what is necessary for learning.

At the time that vouchers and charter schools came to be, the international body for measuring student knowledge and success placed the United States in the middle of the pack and or near the bottom of the list for education. Rather than find a system in which the United States could assess itself as a nation, the political machine has argued that the reason for this is that public schools are failing students, and that only a strong, moral and or religious education is the key to success. The reality of this argument remains inconsistent, in that countries which have a national standard and have a path toward national success tend to have better educators, more connected schools and more involved students. The United States has some amazing students who are the cream of the crop and move up toward equality with the rest of the world, yet where it fails is that after this top 20%, the rest are far below.

The issue is not that we need charter schools or private schools, we need one standard of expectation that everyone can attain. There was an attempt to make this happen, yet the political machine did not like that there was a possibility curriculum would be instituted against the philosophy of each state, so they began to fight a system they created. The result was that the nation of education went back to State driven mandates for public schools and find an avenue for profit so that education can remain a business; while allowing for profit centers to be created without accountability. The result continues to be a for profit model in which the kids are not the product, rather they are widget leading to profit. To combat this, we need to deconstruct this focus on vouchers and charter schools and move the resources back to a model of accountability.

I do fully understand the concept of choice, yet I cannot accept it without the primary argument of equity for all within the classroom and a structure of accountability for all around the nation. Use the monies collected for education through taxes for a public education and the monies paid for by families desiring private education to be private, yet either way, the Nation and the State needs to be on the same page for accountability and content. To measure all of this we have a national test which the students take each year to see where they are at. Finally if a school is accepting of public money then it no longer can carry the label private, and it is held to all the same rules as all other public schools, then the issues of accountability are taken care of, and the standard of care for each child will be monitored.

Why Being Vigilant Matters

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I have read many people making posts and comments arguing against the protests in America. Some say protesting is just sour grapes, others say it’s the left rallying a cry for their own failure. There are so many reasons being shared for why these protests are an attack against the Conservative movement – yet it would seem to me that the anger of the conservatives is speaking louder than the reality of the situation.

On Saturday, the world was watching the protests and participating in unison. They did so because they are afraid of what is occurring at this time in America.

In Trump’s first speech he said “America first and America only”. It sounds like a great idea if you are just a small isolated nation – yet America is not isolated – it is the democratic model that every country wishes it could be. Changing that model and reverting back in time is a conservative hope, yet is it ever a reality?

Yes – America has faults and problems – yet on the international stage – America’s brand is the one that the world prefers – regardless of what the news shares. So when a person is elected President who has shown his true colors which harbor many issues with groups other than White Males – the world perks up. They worry and perhaps for good reason – history has taught them that these types of rulers are an issue and often bring a cloud of devastation with them.

The woman’s march yesterday was not isolated to America – it was worldwide. It was a march of solidarity to show a hope that the work of humanism will not be destroyed by the country that has pushed it forward for the past 60 years. It’s a hope that the people of America call themselves to action against any tyranny – not just an acceptance that the system of balance will work just because it’s expected to.

I am a Republican who in 2010 began a shift away from Conservatism. There is a difference between the two concepts- and in that difference I align with Lincoln who fought for the people and for the future of a great nation. The conservative movement fought hard to stop any agenda of a Black president whose agenda was to push humanism and science. The agenda itself, which was successful moving forward, is not abhorrent – unless you are that conservative minded person afraid of change.

Yes – humanism in other nations is far behind America – yet events such as the Arab Spring was possible because America showed them through its history that a voice is powerful against a tyrant. Coups are possible for the same reason.

Sadly some people turn toward violence over peaceful protests – yet the peace of Martin Luther King was balanced by the violence of Malcolm X – which combined to help put black people and their plight into the national discussion. It took the work of both movements to gain national attention and action.

Women of 2017 have it far better thanks to women who protested in the 1920’s and 40’s – yet their fight is not over. This is the same for every group who is not integrated into the white American culture without question.

When the world is concerned; when the most powerful (in most every way) nation of the world votes in a leader – I go back to my research.

“Make America great Again”

Again is the word that concerns me and what I believe is the word that got him elected. So how far back are we going to find when America was great? If the concern is solely Obama and wanting to return to before his presidency – then that comment is purely based in racism, sexism, homophobia or fear that the Liberals were actually successful in their attempt at progressing American society.

Is it a return back to the Bush days when we went to attack the enemy in terrorism and learned how hard it is to wipe out an enemy?

Is it a return back to the Clinton presidency who developed the criteria for outsourcing based on the desire of furthering profits by corporations?

Is it a return back to Reagan who expanded the military, worked towards nuclear proliferation, caused Russia to retreat and constructed the tightest of rules when it came to maintaining profit over progress? Just how far back do we go to meet the word “Again”?

So as we watch and protest the desire for a modern American exceptionalism – if the outcome is the furthering of America as a global leader, and to take the policies of past Presidents and improving them – then I’m in. If I see none of that occurring – then the marches yesterday around the world were correct and I’ll come back to these words — America is Already great – let’s make it Greater 🙂

Thanks for reading

 

The Mental Health State of the Orlando Shootings

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The following is my analysis of the recent shootings in Orlando:

Orlando has certainly been in the news over the past 2 weeks. For me, the experience was more than surreal as it is the area I call home, yet I was not home at the time of the events. I was away working which allowed for me to have a differing perspective.

I awoke on Saturday morning to the news sharing that a singer -Christina Grimmie – had been shot while signing autographs. This was an awful story to read and certainly one that made me wonder what was going on with the world. It is scary enough to think that people have such access to a weapon that can destroy with very little effort (I know the 2nd amendment for those that are irked already); yet to once again read a story of someone with this much anger using such a weapon to remove a life from this earth just because they felt it was ok to do is maddening.

In respect to this young lady (Christina Grimmie) your light was exterminated many years before your time, yet, it would seem that another man had anger in his mind, as he arrived the same night of your death at another nightclub to destroy as many people as he could with a different gun. This particular event shares with Orlando and the rest of the country how fragile the laws are in relation to guns and mental health.

As stated above, in both of these situations, the victims were shot with a gun. Christina Grimmie died at the hands of a man who shot her then after a scuffle turned the gun on himself. Perhaps there was a mental state within the shooter that was of pure anger or it may just simply have been what we have learned that he was infatuated with her and expected her to respond in kind. A similar story occurred like this when a shooter (John Hinkley) sought the attention of an actress and shot President Reagan. The country rallied at that time and came to the conclusion that there may be a need for gun control and even created a cooling off period. This makes sense in cases where people get into an argument, yet there is no system that is out there to help people in the mental health world.

A few hours later, a man who had the desire of destruction in his mind and heart choose to use guns to destroy the lives of 49 people and wound many others. As the story unfolded from my location, which was not in Orlando, the feeling was surreal. I live close enough to the location of this mass shooting, yet being far away on the day of and even through a week later, I have time to sit back and allow my inner anger to subside while my heart comes to terms with what is going on.

Information on the shooter has come out that he was a problem child in school, being suspended often. He had problems as an adult not being able to truly connect with any specific group. His wife stated he had anger issues, the club he visited recalls him looking toward men for attention. His desire for guns and the use of them calmed him enough to enjoy the violence of possibility. Any of these situations are now being called red flags, yet as a nation none of them really are. He began to acknowledge his connection to ISIS, yet his family and friends state he was not really religious and none of the terrorist networks knew of him. None of this to me says the man is a terrorist for Islam or for ISIS. Rather he is a lone individual who has a mental state which split.
I believe strongly that the discussion of mental health is not discussed enough when it comes to the honest situation of any of these circumstances. Orlando is working on the process of healing from a mentally unhealthy individual who choose to use the tactic of terror to destroy lives. I believe that the death of Chritina Grimmie falls into the same category.
The city of Orlando has rallied hard to come together and to find a meaning behind this shooting. The press jumped to terrorism because it is easy. The truth to me is that it is not easy, this is a mental health shooting which does not have red flags since we as a society do not accept the review of anger or discipline problems as mental health issues. We do not fund the option for working on mental health issues and we do not focus any attention toward this problem. Orlando is not the first shooting situation in our nation, rather this particular shooting targeted a nightclub. The situation of it being a gay nightclub may have played a factor in the shooters mental state, yet there is no difference in the loss of life, people are still dead because a person with a state of mind other than healthy made this choice. This is no different than the choice of a school or a movie theater, it is a location for which a person who showed many signs of mental health deficiency choose to create harm.

The understanding of this choice is not common, yet it is understood in the research components of psychology. Discussing banning guns for people with mental health will not remove the issues we face today, for the people we want the guns taken away from do not always show issues and or do have ways to find guns. Creating a system whereupon a person with red flags is sent to a counselor to work on their issues sounds like a great idea, yet it slaps the constitution so loudly that the ACLU would not allow it and the politicians would never fund it.

This means, that within the community, we will all bond together, the same as we did for 9/11, Sandy Hook, Columbine and even Denver, yet the ultimate reality is nothing will change. The press will continue to vilify this as an act of terror to sell ratings, and the people of the city will hold onto every word that is said as gospel.

For me, this is the saddest part of the story. Until we are willing as a society to realize that within every community lies many ticking issues that with counseling can be helped, stories such as these will continue.

If you are around people who may have anger issues or maybe showing signs of wanting to target a specific group, ask them to get help. There are support groups out there, yet ranting about one person for what they did in the name of religion or sexual preference is the final step. There are many steps prior to this that can help solve the problem.

Leadership is Developed around Personnel

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“It is easy to see leadership as something urgent and immediate.
Decisions needs to be made. Performance needs to be evaluated. Goals needs to be set. Action needs to be taken. Something must be done right away; it takes a leader to get it done.
We forget that leadership is not completed when we take action. Leadership is not only immediate” (Leadership Never Dies)

– The Message to be shared within this article and through my comments today is that Leadership is a living, breathing entity which guides the future. In our current leadership system of 2014 there is more of a “Do as I say mentality along with a save me or else mindset”. These situations are not what good leaders are, rather they are models of leadership left over from 5o years ago.

As time evolves, leadership is meant to as well. I do not mean that we need to change the style of leadership, rather how that style is handled with an ever changing social dynamic.
The modern leader of 2014 needs to understand that the people working for them wants to feel important too. People do not always desire to lead, yet they want to know that they have a voice, are able to use this voice and or utilize their skills to their best ability. A true leader of today focuses on developing the people around them for their future, not the future of the leader.

Goals for the modern leader need to be set and then put in the hands of the people that are working for him/her. When the right personnel are in place, then the goals will find success and the leader will achieve their due accolades. When a leader is forceful upon their people and just looking to achieve their goals alone, then the personnel tend to feel disgruntled and may be less productive. Without an ability to see where they belong within the organization, personnel have a tendency to withdraw. Great leaders are great because they understand the climate of the people working for them, know how to motivate them and in the modern environment know how to step back and let the people develop.

When making decision, leaders need to know how to evaluate strengths, weaknesses and possible flaws within a future outcome. This does not mean stay away from any of these situations, rather place personnel within reach when necessary to allow for goals to continue to develop. This is a model based within transformational leadership with a small amount of servant leadership adaptation. The modern environment needs this type of system.

The modern leader needs to be involved, know the future and guide the people toward it…if that is able to occur, then success for the leader will arrive.

Learning Styles – More Myth than Truth

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The following is copied from Teaching High School Psychology – Posted – Tuesday October 29th 2013

Web Blog: http://teachinghighschoolpsychology.blogspot.com/2013/10/learning-styles-myth.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FFcTgv+%28Teaching+High+School+Psychology%29

Learning Styles: Myth? I’m interested in hearing how teachers and administrators in your district talk and think about “learning styles.” I remember learning – learning style “theory” during staff development workshops as a young teacher, and the main impact was that I felt guilty for not diligently including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic experiences in my lessons.

So I was glad to read Daniel Willingham’s work on “debunking” what he calls the “learning styles myth.” It turns out there really isn’t much empirical evidence that learning styles exist or impact learning (they might be learning “preferences”). Willingham has been dedicated to adding some science to the discussion of “learning styles” for quite a while and created many resources that are usable by many audience. The FAQ document linked to below is a good overall summary of his thinking:

Learning Style FAQ http://www.danielwillingham.com/learning-styles-faq.html

More recently, Howard Gardner chimed in to try to clarify how his multiple intelligences theory is different form “learning styles,” and how people misinterpret his theory too. Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple Intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’ http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/16/howard-gardner-multiple-intelligences-are-not-learning-styles/

Thoughts from Cade Resnick – The original idea of learning styles gave a reason to explain behavior. The more Neuroscience arrives into the world of Psychology and understands human interaction, the more we understand of learning styles. I believe it is in the best interest of educator’s worldwide to realize that every student is not a learning style the same way no 1 person is just one of 5 senses. We know more now and now we need to utilize this new knowledge to educate as such. Thanks for listening.